Post-classical history


A port town and bishopric in the kingdom of Cyprus.

Paphos (mod. Pafos) enjoyed some importance as a trading destination for the Venetians even prior to the Latin conquest of the island in 1191, and thereafter it was mentioned in Italian nautical guides as a trading port along with Limassol (mod. Lemesos), although the latter was more important on account of its better harbor.

The Latin bishopric was established in 1196. The Greek bishops, who were jurisdictionally subordinate to the Latin bishops under the terms of the Bulla Cypria of 1260, were allocated the locality of Arsinoe on the northwest coast as their place of residence. However, few Latins resided at Paphos: according to a letter of Pope Gregory IX, the Latin bishop Henry was translated to Nazareth in Palestine in 1239 because his ignorance of Greek made him unsuitable for Paphos, where virtually the whole population was Greek.

Paphos had strategic value for the Lusignan kings of Cyprus, and a castle modeled on the Hospitaller castle at Belvoir in Palestine was constructed near the harbor around 1200, possibly by the Hospitallers themselves. The whole town was destroyed in 1222 by a major earthquake, which was followed by another in 1227. The castle was never rebuilt, but the town itself was reconstructed, although the German pilgrim Ludolph von Suchen referred to its destruction by frequent earthquakes during his visit to Cyprus between 1336 and 1341. From 1232 onward the Genoese maintained a consul in Paphos, although it had far less commercial importance during the fourteenth century than Famagusta (mod. Ammochostos), the island’s main commercial port, or even Limassol, and it is seldom mentioned in the notarial deeds of the Genoese Lamberto di Sambuceto and of the Venetian Nicola de Boateriis.

The hinterland of Paphos was important in terms of agriculture, producing sugar, wine, and wheat. Both the Crown and the Hospitallers had properties there, those of the Crown including the sugar plantations at Kouklia; the sugar producing casalia (villages) of Akhelia, Emba, and Lemba; and the wine producing casale of Tarsis, while the Hospitallers had commanderies at Phinikas and Anoyira, where grain, pulses, carobs, cotton, sugar, and molasses were produced. As demand in Europe and especially in Venice increased for such produce, especially sugar, the Venetians from 1445 onward established a new regular galley route that sojourned for over one month in Cyprus, including twenty-five days at Paphos, the first port of call on its outward journey, to take on board such agricultural produce. Nonetheless, the town itself did not benefit greatly: the Dominican Felix Faber, when visiting Cyprus in 1480 and 1483, described Paphos as a miserable village built over the ruins of a once-great city, a description echoed by later travelers. The district of Paphos was ravaged by a tornado in 1433 and by Turkish pirates in 1452.

Under the Venetian rule of the island (1489-1571) Paphos was neglected, and it had a population of only 2,000 inhabitants by the end of this period. The fortifications near the shore were abandoned in 1503, although the harbor still served small ships. In 1562 Francis Contarini, the Latin bishop of Paphos, was spending considerable sums on restoring the cathedral there, which was now properly served. The Ottomans captured the unfortified town in 1570 without serious resistance, but Bishop Contarini distinguished himself during the siege of Nicosia (mod. Lefkosia) and was killed following the city’s capture.

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